Congrats...You have just elected the first CPA as Salt Lake County Auditor! February 5th 2022, the Precinct Chairs for the Salt Lake County GOP voted for qualifications and the right kind of RELEVANT experience by electing a Certified Public Accountant for County Auditor. The results:
Salt Lake County Auditor Special Election
Chris Harding, 198 votes, 79.8% - winner
David Muir, 50 votes, 20.2%
Why does that matter? It's another avenue to give power to the people of Salt Lake County. CPA's are held to a higher standard. CPA's understand and have been educated, trained, and tested to ensure they know how to audit to professional standards.
A taxpayer's "compulsory investment" in Salt Lake County, via property taxes must be protected and guarded by the same standards that protect many private sector companies and their investors.
One of the first things Chris has done upon taking office is to establish a baseline of quality control by having our office participate in a peer review program. Chris attended the annual held by Association of Local Government Auditors (ALGA) to train in their Peer Review Program. Chris is working with ALGA to set up the first ever peer review of the Salt Lake County Auditor's office.
Government Auditing Standards, promulgated by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), establishes professional standards for conducting audits in government. Those standards require audit organizations to receive an external peer review at least once every three years. The objective of a peer review is to determine whether an audit organization's quality control system is suitably designed and is in place and operating effectively. A peer review also provides assurance that an audit organization is following its established policies and procedures and applicable auditing standards.
It’s not enough to hire employees and have them perform the textbook functions of an auditor or property tax calculations. Professional environments in which employees dread going in and have little to no work satisfaction, will not perform audit and oversight functions to the best of their ability nor to the full benefit of the public. As County Auditor, training and professional certification are paramount in our office. Employees have a hand in crafting an individual development and training plan. We have hired new auditors, filling all vacancies, and plan to double the number of audits that have been historically performed.
Since taking office, Chis has demonstrated the value of the auditors office by delivering timely audits and providing quality information and recommendations to those charged with governance.
Historically there has a void in both independence and auditing standards it will have a direct impact on the audit work and thereby the quality of information being given to and used by the governing body.
President John F. Kennedy famously said, "There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long-range risks of comfortable inaction". The SLCO auditors office has had far too much turnover, far too much inexperience, and far too much "comfortable inaction". Chris is changing that, please look at the audits we have issued so far:
There can be no true independence when the County Auditor must get the permission of the County Council to conduct performance audits. Chris has met with a bi-partisan majority of the County Council, the Mayor, and various State Legislatures to work with, educate, and encourage lawmakers to pass legislation to amend state law (Senate Bill 124) in the upcoming legislative session.
Senate Bill 124 virtually did away with the basic concept of separation of powers between the auditors and county governing bodies for counties of the "1st class" of which Salt Lake County stands alone. The State Auditor for Utah, John Dougall recently spoke out on this very issue to the Salt Lake Tribune in a story they published on December 21, 2021 (https://www.sltrib.com/opinion/commentary/2021/12/21/jim-wightman-putting/) The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) defines the Fraud Triangle into three components (Pressure, Opportunity, and Rationalization). Senate Bill 124 increases the risk of fraud, waste, and abuse in the county.
As County Auditor, Chris has been working with the County Council and educating them on the criticality of an Audit Committee. One that is bi-partisan, technically adept, able to view County risks through the eyes of other entities and management, objective, and has a deeper awareness of County internal controls.
The Audit Committee will be instrumental in establishing an appropriate internal audit charter and Audit Committee charter, describing their oversight duties. This Committee will provide valuable insight into an internal audit policy manual, going hand in hand with establishing audit standards, a peer review program, and other best practices. The Audit Committee will be able to have a current "pulse" on the County through monitoring activities and regular updates by the County Auditor.